The Best Rolls For Pulled Pork Sandwiches
Pulled pork is one of the most iconic barbecue dishes around. It takes on wood smoke flavor well, and you can take the flavor profile in any direction you want with seasonings. You’ve even got options for how you serve it. You can find it served on a plate or on a sandwich. However, we’re…
Pulled pork is one of the most iconic barbecue dishes around. It takes on wood smoke flavor well, and you can take the flavor profile in any direction you want with seasonings. You’ve even got options for how you serve it. You can find it served on a plate or on a sandwich.
However, we’re concerned with one of the best barbecue sandwiches there is, the pulled pork sandwich. We’ve talked about the best toppings for a pulled pork sandwich previously, but here we are going to focus on what the pulled pork goes on, the bun (or roll, or bread.) After all, bread is an important ingredient when it comes to making a sandwich, right?
Arguably, the best bun for pulled pork sandwiches is a brioche bun. It’s sweet and it can absorb juices without becoming mushy or falling apart. Those are some of the important characteristics of a good pulled pork bun, and we’ll go over all the characteristics that make the best buns for pulled pork, well, the best. We’ll also go over the rest of our top five buns for pulled pork sandwiches as well as some atypical options and one common option that we typically avoid.
What Makes The Best Buns For Pulled Pork Sandwiches?
So if you find yourself in the bakery or bread section of your local grocery store or supermarket, you need to know some of the characteristics you’re looking for in a bun, roll, or loaf of bread. One of the most important things you need in a good bun is the ability to handle the juices from the pork itself plus any extra liquid and moisture from your toppings like barbecue sauce or coleslaw.
You also want to figure out what sort of flavor you want in your buns. You can lean into the sweetness with a brioche bun or a Hawaiian bun (or use the sweetness of the bun to counterbalance some heat or tanginess of the pork.) If you want to think outside the box, you can use some sourdough bread or rolls to help cut through some of the sweetness and richness of the pork.
Now this is more of a personal preference, but you’ll want to figure out what sort of texture you’re looking for on the outside of the bun as well as the inside. Some people like soft buns like a potato bun, others prefer something with a crispy exterior like a ciabatta roll.
Once you’ve got your personal preferences figured out, you can pick and choose from among our favorites for your vote for the best bun for pulled pork.
1. Brioche Bun
As we stated earlier, this is our pick for the best bun for pulled pork sandwiches. It’s soft and fluffy, textures that are great for pulled pork in our opinion. Brioche also has some sweetness to it, not overpoweringly so, but enough to either further enhance the sweet factor or help balance out a spicier or more savory pulled pork recipe.
Brioche buns, much like brioche bread, are made with simple ingredients that you’ll find in the majority of buns or bread like butter, sugar, eggs, milk, and flour. However, brioche stands out because it’s made with more butter and eggs than the vast majority of bread, so it has a well-defined yellow color and resembles a dessert more than a hearty country-style bread.
Brioche buns also aren’t going to turn to mush in your hands. That’s a big key for juicy pulled pork or if you’re a big fan of slathering your pulled pork sandwich in your favorite BBQ sauce.
2. Potato Buns
This is a close race for the title of best bun for pulled pork with potato buns making a strong case for the top spot. Potato buns are soft and chewy which makes them perfect for pulled pork. However, don’t think that softness will mean these turn to mush when you start piling that moist pork on. These are sturdy buns and can hold up to whatever sauces and toppings you throw at them.
As the name suggests, potatoes are a major ingredient in these buns. Some recipes call for replacing some of the standard wheat flour with potato flour while other homemade recipes use mashed potatoes.
These buns have some sweetness but not as much as some of the others on this list. That makes them ideal for just about any flavor profile you’re targeting with your pulled pork.
3. Hawaiian Rolls
Speaking of sweetness, whether you go for the iconic name brand of King’s Hawaiian or store brand, you’ll level up that sweet profile or really balance out that heat or tanginess of the pork. The best part of using Hawaiian rolls? You can go for those delicious dinner rolls that are beloved on dinner tables everywhere (especially on Thanksgiving here in the U.S.A.) for pulled pork sliders as well.
Hawaiian rolls are sweet, fluffy, and light, yet they have enough body to stand up to the demands of pulled pork.
While Hawaiian rolls did get their start on the island in the Pacific Ocean, they were heavily inspired by Portuguese sweet bread. What sets Hawaiian rolls apart is the inclusion of pineapple juice for additional sweetness on top of the rich Portuguese sweet bread that uses plenty of butter.
4. Kaiser Rolls
If you’re not a big fan of using buns or rolls that tend toward the sweeter end of the spectrum, then Kaiser rolls are right up your alley. The soft interior will absorb all the pork juices and barbecue sauce but the crunchy and crispy exterior will hold up to ensure you’ve got a good handhold regardless of how many toppings you throw on your sandwich.
Kaiser rolls have a largely mild flavor which means you can let the pulled pork and toppings shine through without having to worry about the bun being too sweet. These rolls are one of the most iconic sandwich rolls out there, and they work well for pulled pork sandwiches.
You will find Kaiser rolls also called Vienna rolls (as they originated in Austria) or simply hard rolls due to the exterior being harder than most rolls.
5. Ciabatta Rolls
Want to show off and give your pulled pork a more artisan look? Serve your pulled pork on some beautiful ciabatta rolls. It’s not just a beautiful look, either. Ciabatta rolls are crunchy on the outside so they’ll maintain their shape regardless of how moist your pulled pork is or how much sauce you pour on there. Yet the interior is light and airy, giving the rolls a pleasant chewing experience as well.
Ciabatta bread and rolls get that light, airy interior due to the dough having a much higher concentration of moisture than most bread dough. So throughout the cooking process, the interior develops that iconic airy texture while the exterior gets crunchy and crispy.
Ciabatta has a slightly milder sourdough flavor which makes it ideal for balancing out a sweeter pulled pork sandwich.
What Are Some Less Typical, More Outside-The-Box Options?
Most of the above options are normal buns and breads that you wouldn’t bat an eye at if someone offered you a pulled pork sandwich with any of them as the bun. Maybe ciabatta might be a bit atypical, but it’s not uncommon as a sandwich bread.
What if you want to experiment with some different types of buns, rolls, and breads? We’ve got a few options for you as well.
Now I personally love a good sourdough bread toasted then slathered with butter alongside some eggs for breakfast. It wouldn’t be the first bread that would come to mind when thinking about pulled pork sandwiches, but maybe it should be higher on our collective lists.
Sourdough bread is sturdy both on the exterior and interior, though the interior is nice and chewy. It’s going to handle just about anything you can think of topping your pulled pork with. You’ll want to layer on the flavors if you’re using sourdough, too. Its distinctive sour tang can help add balance to a sweet-forward pulled pork. However, if you’re going light on the toppings and just want to let the smoked pulled pork shine through, the sourdough flavor can be overwhelming. Sourdough bread gets its flavor due to the fermentation process that its starter goes through.
You can find store-bought sourdough rolls so you don’t have to go with making pulled pork sandwiches on two hearty slices of sourdough. You can also find recipes online to make your own sourdough rolls, but you’ll need some sourdough starter.
If you really want to go outside the standard sandwich roll box, give naan bread a chance. This flatbread is chewy but can handle plenty of toppings without losing integrity. If you want a more savory pulled pork “sandwich,” you can get garlic naan bread to amp up the flavor.
Naan bread can be found in parts of the Middle East and parts of Asia, but it’s especially linked to India. It’s traditionally cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor which gives naan bread its distinctive charred spots, much like pizza crust in a wood-fired oven.
Not only can you get creative and serve pulled pork in a folded piece of naan bread, but you can make pulled pork pizza on naan bread as well. It’s a great use of leftover pulled pork. Just put a layer of barbecue sauce on the naan bread and top with pulled pork, cheddar cheese, mozzarella cheese, and some red onions. It’s delicious.
Naan bread is also easy to find these days. I can go to my local grocery store and find a selection of naan bread in multiple flavors and sizes.
If you want a rustic-looking pulled pork sandwich, putting your pulled pork on a deep brown and salted pretzel bun will do the trick. The exterior is nice and crunchy while the interior might be one of the most chewy buns you’ll find, so you have to be prepared for that.
These buns will hold up to plenty of toppings so you’re free to pile on all of your favorites. If you’re a fan of those big soft pretzels, you’ll like a pretzel bun. It’s got all the wonderful hallmarks of a pretzel with chewiness and saltiness that you can put pulled pork into.
What About Hamburger Buns?
We’ve all eaten pulled pork on hamburger buns, right? They’re fine, but I wouldn’t put them at the top of my list of the best buns for pulled pork. Why?
Well, there’s such a wide variety of quality when it comes to the simple hamburger bun. You can find really good ones, and if you go to your local supermarket, you can find the cheapest, flimsiest burger buns that will fall apart if your pulled pork is too juicy.
This is not me saying you should never put pulled pork on a burger bun. This is simply me saying you need to be careful about what burger bun you choose for your pulled pork sandwiches.
What Should I Top My Pulled Pork Sandwich With?
We referenced our list of the best pulled pork toppings earlier, but now we can take some time to talk through it a bit. When I’m making pulled pork sandwiches, I want my sandwich to have some sort of balance. I love sweet pulled pork, but I also want something to provide balance. That’s why I love barbecue sauces that have sweet ingredients and something like apple cider vinegar as a balance.
You can achieve that balance with different toppings as well. You can add some sliced red onions for their tanginess while also adding a crunchy element to the sandwich. Some people love pickles for that vinegary flavor as well.
One way to add some heat for balance is by adding jalapeno slices. You can use raw jalapenos, pickled jalapenos, or even fried jalapenos.
Another topping that would go well with the pretzel bun mentioned above would be some sort of cheese. You can go with heavily processed nacho cheese or maybe a beer cheese to really compliment the pretzel bun.
For more ideas, check out that list of great pulled pork sandwich topping ideas.
Wrapping It Up
When it comes to pulled pork sandwiches, everything is important. The pulled pork is the star of the show, but what you put that pulled pork on is incredibly important to the final product. We love a good brioche bun for its softness and sweetness, but there are plenty of options to suit your personal preferences.
What’s your favorite bun for pulled pork? Do you buy from the store or make your own? Let us know in the comments!
Question: What Are Some Side Dishes To Go With My Pulled Pork Sandwiches?
Answer: I’m a fan of simplicity when it comes to serving pulled pork sandwiches. French fries are a great side while even just grabbing a bag of your favorite potato chips works as well. For something a little more hearty, make some potato salad (I’m personally a fan of mustard potato salad.)
Question: What Is Better For Making Pulled Pork – Pork Shoulder Or Pork Butt?
Answer: You can make good pulled pork from either a picnic shoulder or pork butt, but it’s a lot easier to do so with a pork butt. Pork butts have much more marbling and are a more uniform shape for smoking. Check out our full comparison of pork butts and pork shoulders for more information.
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